Day 3013 – World Mental Health Day – and – Another Peek In My Alcoholism Memoir

Today is World Mental Health Day. From the Days of the Year website, here’s a little bit about the day – “Mental health problems, ranging from issues like depression and anxiety disorders to conditions like schizophrenia, affect millions of people around the world. In fact, according to current statistics, 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem during their lifetime and many more will see friends of family members affected.

What a staggering statistic! And one that I believe is pretty darn accurate. There are so many things that the people we know struggle with that they keep hidden or think they should keep hidden. Today is a good reminder that we’re all not perfect, and to take some time to get to know those around us. And that if you struggle with something, it’s ok, and there is much freedom in sharing your struggles with someone you trust.

In a bit of serendipity, I was working on the chapter about being a Christian with a drinking problem in my memoir today. Let it encourage you to go deeper with those around you. And let it serve as a reminder that we’re all facing battles that aren’t seen on the surface.

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A friend recently asked how long I’ve been a Christian. They thought maybe a new belief is what caused me to stop drinking. I’ve been a Christian my whole life – which makes the fact that I had a drinking problem as a Christian more confusing, and hard to believe. But here’s the thing – no one is immune to struggling with things. I think being honest with yourself is a big part of knowing when you have a problem. It wasn’t until I was honest with myself, acknowledging that I couldn’t drink ever again, that a change was finally made. It wasn’t until several months after I was sober that I could acknowledge that I was an alcoholic.

I didn’t look like what you might think an alcoholic would look like. I went to church, I was homeschooled K-12. I got good grades when I went to college and graduated with honors. What you didn’t see were the times I hugged the toilet. What you didn’t see were the hysterical crying fits I had. What you didn’t see were the puffy eyes and bloated body the next day. You were surprised when you heard I was an alcoholic. You had no idea. I had become a master at hiding my drinking problem. Whether it was sneaking extra glasses of wine when you weren’t looking or sipping cooking wine when the alcohol was gone. And yet, I never thought I had a problem. Yea, maybe I needed to think about things, maybe I had too many drinks when I drank….but there always seemed to be an excuse to drink.

On the last night I drank, Bret and I were supposed to do evening devotions, but we didn’t because I was so intoxicated.

After many of these humiliating moments, I would swear off alcohol. I would be ashamed of myself. “How could a Christian act like this?” I’d tell myself I won’t drink again. I would journal and ask God’s forgiveness. Many times, if not every time, this verse came up:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Every time I read it, I’d mentally agree and think “this is it. I can do this.”

But then a few months would go by and I would think, “Oh it’s our anniversary,” “Oh, it’s so and so’s birthday,” “Oh! It’s Tuesday!” And there I was again, right back where I was before. It would start slow and then would be a full-blown problem again. It was an endless cycle.

Here are a few entries I’ve journaled about my drinking over the years.

1/1/06
Maybe these dark times are to show me what God has saved me from. A taste of what the worldly Jennilyn would be.

I didn’t realize I would end up being worldly Jennilyn when I was arrested only eight and a half months later. I didn’t realize I would cross that line – or how easy it would be.

So when did I know I was an alcoholic?

Probably in the few months after my last drink. Here’s a snapshot from my journal.

September 29, 2014 (first day sober)
I do enjoy it and I have had some great times, yet I’ve quit so many times. Can I really not control myself or am I trying to prove to myself that I can? Am I holding on to sin? Should I cut it loose? Do I need to cut it out completely? Truly? Forever? Is it standing in my way?

On October 3, 2014
Thank you also for the clear “it’s time” to quit drinking. Thank you for the strength already against temptation. Let it open doors to honest communications about how Christians aren’t perfect.

Another factor to this time being different was I took a few days to make the decision. Other times, it was a quick decision. It used to be a way to placate Bret – “Don’t worry babe, this is the LAST time.”

Looking back, I think it has been so true – that it opened lines of communication. People are shocked when they hear about my sobriety – “but you’re a Christian!”

Thinking back to the months following this moment, I remember thinking that there is almost more stigma against people who don’t drink than people who do. I was more embarrassed and nervous to say “no thank you” to a drink, then when I was downing bottle after bottle.

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My very last margarita!

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Day 3007 – Sneak Peek From My Alcoholism Memoir

This excerpt is from the chapter currently titled “Change.” It’s funny, I wrote the following months ago, but I find myself here again today. I did very little writing today. I’m at the point where I HAVE to write about my experiences. I have to dig deep into the things I only briefly shared in my testimony. I shared about being hung over at my friend’s wedding, in two sentences. But in the book, I shared a full paragraph. As I’m opening the door to the memories, they are flooding back. I’m remembering when I threw up in my mouth and had to swallow it. I’m remembering getting drunk, multiple times, in Vegas. I’m remembering get togethers where it really wasn’t appropriate to drink as much much as I did. I think at one such event, I drank at least 1 bottle of champagne myself, maybe even 2. My reason? There was a lot extra and it would be thrown out if not.

So it seems appropriate to share the following. Still no idea when it will be ready, but I might have a better idea after I finish the work on the experiences. Oy.

“I am very happy being sober. I’m glad I don’t drink anymore. But there’s something that happens to me. I can get down after I read about my sobriety, or read about another’s story of sobriety, or I engage in conversations about it. I sit here after a great conversation last night with another sober blogger. I find myself this morning very pensive and thoughtful. I feel sad. It strikes me that though I think I’m ok talking about my alcoholism, going deep into those memories and writing about them isn’t easy. I am the type of person that leaves the past in the past. If I think there’s an acceptable time to move on, I do. I try to live in the present. So why does it make me so sad? Maybe I’ve changed so much from that person I used to be that I don’t want to deal with her anymore? Through my learning about business, and life in general, I know the importance of the people you spend time with. If you want to grow, you have to be around folks who are a step or two (or ten) ahead of you. The Jennilyn of the past used any excuse to drink. She kissed a guy who had a girlfriend (before she met Bret). She drove after drinking. She broke the law. She could have killed someone while driving drunk. She needled her way into talking Bret into driving so she could drink many times. I want to leave her in the past. I don’t want to share her with the world. She isn’t worth my time. And yet, she is still a part of who I am. She is a Jennilyn I can measure my current self against. She lets me see how much I have truly grown. She shows me a person I never want to be again. And she can be a person to show others how much change is possible. She may not be my favorite person, but I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.”

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Day 3006 – Nostalgia, Vegas, And Hiding Truth About Yourself

I have been so discouraged by the horror that took place in Vegas. There is much that can be said, has been said, and will be said. The whole thing made me very nostalgic yesterday.

See, I’ve been to Vegas a number of times. Bret and I have spent countless hours in the airport, and I have attended a wedding conference there several times. If I was still in the wedding industry, there’s a chance I would have been there this week.

The last time I was in Vegas (minus the airport stops), I was still drinking, and drinking heavily. I drank a lot the whole time I was there, but one night, I actually left my friends and went back to our room, halfway down the strip. My cell phone was dying and I didn’t let anyone know where I was. My poor friends searched for me, and thankfully found me. I was in the bathroom puking when they arrived. Looking back, I feel terrible for my actions. I hate that alcohol caused me to do things that hurt others, caused others to worry, and held me back for so long.

This tragedy has also caused me to think about how people hide things. There are so many layers to people. There are so many things that they want to keep buried. I realize it’s cliche, but you never know the battles someone may be fighting. You don’t know how hard it was for them to get out of bed. You don’t know what demons they’re fighting. For years, I hid my alcoholism. I made light of something that was tearing me apart. It’s so much easier to just judge a person and their actions. There is much to be learned from this, and hopefully one is you never know the full truth about someone.

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Day 3002 – Three Years Sober – or – The Hardest Thing About Being Sober

I can’t believe it’s been three years since I stopped drinking. I can’t believe alcohol doesn’t have power over my life anymore. I can’t believe I talk about it so openly now. I am so far from who I was. I am so thankful that my story is not one of alcoholism anymore.

In a lot of ways, being sober is very easy. Because I don’t have alcohol muting my brain, I can make better decisions about things. Because I finally decided that I could never drink again, I don’t drink. I am so far removed from that struggle now, that it’s easy.

But there are a lot of ways that it’s very very hard to be a sober person. Our society is all about drinking. From billboards that say “Pour your soul out,” to main characters on shows drinking so much you’d think they were all alcoholics. I was honestly more embarrassed to say no thank you to drinks after I quit than when I was trying to get more alcohol when I was drinking. It’s incredibly lonely at times. I can’t tell you how many memes are shared looking down on sober people or encouraged heavy drinking on my social media feeds. I think finding out I was an alcoholic and am now sober makes some people uncomfortable. It’s so outside of the norm that people don’t want to discuss it.

So here’s what I wish would happen and how you can support your sober friends:

– If you ask someone if they want a drink, whether they’re sober or not, and they say no, don’t ask again.

– Don’t share memes about how you’re boring if you don’t drink or you should have a drink because of XYZ.

– Don’t assume your sober friend doesn’t want to hang out with you while you’re drinking. Some that are trying to stay sober can’t be around drinkers, but some can.

– Celebrate every single milestone your sober friend hits.

– Treat your sober friend the same.

– Make sure you have a good assortment of non-alcoholic drinks at parties.

– Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to hang out with you in certain situations. If they can’t be around other drinkers, it will be hard for them to go to a party. Suggest some non-drinking activities to hang out with your friend.

This isn’t a “all my friends left me, everyone treats me terrible, etc.” post. My friends have been awesome about my sobriety. I am happy with my sobriety. But as I’ve been writing my book, and just made observations, I’ve noticed things that make me realize it’s not right and us sober folks need someone to speak up.

Are you sober? Have you seen any of these things? If you are, what are ways your friends help or hinder your sobriety?

And while you’re at it, hug a sober person today. 😀

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Day 3001 – Alcoholism – It’s Always More Than You Remember

Holy crap, tomorrow is my three year sobriety anniversary. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been curious about what I talked about in the week leading up to the final drinks. For the last three years, I thought I only (ha ha, only) had 5 Loose Cannons the last day I drank. My On This Day on Facebook reminded me, nope, I had more. Earlier that day, I went to see Gone With The Wind in the theater. I remember that I had enough of a buzz that I was worried if I seemed like I had a lot to drink. I worried that my breath would give me away.

So not only did I get drunk that night, I also got close to it earlier that day. It’s crazy looking back on my drinking days with sober goggles. It’s crazy seeing how much I forgot. I am thankful that I’ve been an oversharer in the past, so I can fully remember in the present.

What should I do to celebrate tomorrow? I want to do something, but I’m not sure what…let me know in the comments below!

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Did you like what you read? Here’s some ways you can support us and this blog!
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